World renowned thinker Jacques Derrida (search), a founder of the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died, the office of French President Jacques Chirac said Saturday. Derrida was 74.

Derrida died at a Paris hospital of pancreatic cancer, the television station LCI reported.

The snowy-haired French intellectual taught, and thought, at universities on both sides of the Atlantic, and his works were translated around the world.

Provocative and as difficult to define as his favorite subject — deconstruction — Derrida has been a leading thinker for decades with a major impact on intellectuals.

"With him, France has given the world one of its greatest contemporary philosophers, one of the major figures of intellectual life of our time," Chirac said in a statement.

Derrida was born July 15, 1930, in El Biar, Algeria. He began his career as an author in the 1960s and wrote hundreds of books, including "Writing and Difference," "Of Grammatology" and "Margins of Philosophy."

He was best known as a controversial father of deconstructionism (search), a kind of critical thinking developed in the late 1960s and applied to literature, linguistics, philosophy, law and architecture.

Derrida focused his work on language, showing that it has multiple layers and thus multiple meanings or ways of interpretation. This challenges the notion that speech is a direct form of communication or even that the author of a text is the author of its meaning.

Deconstructionists like Derrida explore ways to liberate the written word from the structures of language confining it, opening up limitless interpretations of texts.

The deconstructionist approach was controversial.